Monday, 22 October 2018

The Lahore Journal #8: Learning to trust: (postscript) ... so what?

I'm paraphrasing, but here's the inspiration for what this has been about: "I was concerned about the world. Why there was was, starvation. Unrest. When thinking about world peace I didn't really know where to start. And that seemed to be it. Where do we start... and that was when I realised what if... what if we had a starting point. Just one day to think about this. One day to start something" (from Jeremy Gilley, founder of Peace One Day)

For me, more personally, this was the chance to think about peace. An opportunity to chance my arm with a country that I knew very little about save that Indians and Pakistanis don't like each other.

Lahore I've loved getting to know you. But I'm so thrilled that you have welcomed me and allowed me to find some peace here.

I don't think I could have done this from home sitting at a screen. Or through reading books, watching films. I need to come here to meet you in person.

Thank you. I hope to come back.

Here's what has happened after Lahore.

The Lahore Journal #7: Learning to trust: the peace dove

This is what the last few days has been about.

Our goal to start much needed conversations about peace around the world. Using nothing but scraps.

#PeaceDoves project by NRS International and Empathy Action from NRS International on Vimeo.

The Lahore Journal #6: Learning to trust: by your deeds you shall know them

We had an incredible time with these people and in the brief time were able to carve out an experience that took us all away from our everyday lives to craft a moment.

It was an honour to be there among everyone.

Meet the ladies who are trying to make peace:







and the team

Whilst not being able to convey much about myself during the brief time we were beyond the tasks in hand. One moment arrested me. Kind of stopped me in my tracks, During our brief time there. Towards the end of the workshops, one person came up to me and caught me off guard with a question.They asked me whether I was a Christian. I wasn't expecting this. They said it was something that struck them about me. I never mentioned it.

The Lahore Journal #5: Learning to trust: one to one

I'm here in Pakistan with an Australian who lives in England. A Dutch lady who lives in Dubai and represents a Pakistani company. And I'm an Indian who was born in England with parents from Uganda.

Our mission here is to produce 650 doves made from scraps. scraps of blankets, tents, and other items that when delayed are used to save lives. The company I'm with is called NRS International. They are a leading producer of humanitarian aid items. Aid items that used in disasters, the refugee crisis and parts of deprivation. They manufacture over 3.5 million items every year for the likes of UN agencies, NGOs and more.

Today our goal is to train up five ladies with a specific skill. Sewing together a peace dove. Made up from blankets and tarpaulins.

My colleague and friend Sandy is the innovator and trainer- she designed the dove. The partner group NRS, spearheaded by Wieke who is the driver- she commissioned and resourced the whole enterprise. Me, I'm the story teller.

I already feel like the non essential party right now. My job to ensure that the fruit of today's workshop will live on to the people who will hold this dove and pass on from one to another etched as a bit part to a much broader story: bringing about world peace one person at a time.

The Lahore Journal #4: Learning to trust: "Who do you support in Cricket?"

Lord Tebbit devised it and it was dubbed as the 'cricket test' for British Indians to test them on where they really place their alliances.

The test was simple, answer this question: who do you support in in cricket match between India & England.

This was how I, and many British Indians, were to be teased out. It was the shibboleth. I even remember being asked it a fair few times over the years by friends and those around me.

The answer was different too. It depended on whether I'd be accepted or not or when I didn't care how I'd be received. But every time it did feel like a test.

Whichever answer I gave I lost.

I felt the failure and the one who let down a part of their identity. If the answer was England it was the shunning of my Indian heritage and if it were India it was to the loss of my identity connection with the (more often than not British or White) asker and the country that I was brought up in and associate myself with. The real answer was: both and none. It was never one or the other. The casualty of this question, however was always the same, it was always my perceived loyalty. The wound of betraying my identity and the shame of publicly denying who I am.

So when the top guy, my host, part of the top Pakistani families and fairly familiar with the political scene, talks to me, he has a playful tone. Lots of witty anecdotes and a lot of conversation around the Indian-Pakistan history and tensions between the countries. I try my best to demonstrate that I'm not like the others and actually don't have a problem with this. I even managed to express my desire for there to be replaces the state of rivalry with one of friendship. Was I chancing my arm properly? I really wanted him to not label me as every other Indian he'd met. I wanted to prove to him I'm not like them. I was hoping that this would be a moment of peace between us. My proverbial arm outstretched. A kind of "I'm an Indian but I'm ok. I don't hate Pakistanis".

He then hit me with the question: "Yes. Yes, but who would you support in a game of cricket between India & Pakistan?"

Instinctively I replied India. He replied "There you go"

I'm labelled. Enter the failure hangover.

The Lahore Journal #3: Learning to trust: the side story

In 1492 during a bitter feud between two rival families. One family, on the run, found shelter in chapel. The other family were pressing in upon them. They surrounded the chapel.

during those closing moments, the pursuing family head realised the futility of the war between the families. The family and people inside the chapel cowered and failed to trust the promise of peace offered to them. They remained.

In a final attempt to reconcile the Earl himself, the one in charge went to the door of the chapel. He cut a hole in it. Realising that the family behind the door knew not his intentions nor could he persuade them through his words of his genuine attempt for reconciliation thrust his own arm through the door offering a hand, or arm, of peace.

In a moment of vulnerability the Earl of Kildare's arm lay open for attack or open for grabbing a chance for peace. The Earl of Ormond and his army who were stuck inside saw his nemesis' arm and chose the latter.

To this day the term 'chance your arm' has been coined to suggest acts of bravery, or great risk, to achieve something worthwhile.

This trip seems more than just a work trip. It’s more than just a visit to Pakistan. It’s about a journey into the very heart, for me, of trust, trusting and forgiveness. Perhaps even a time to chance my own arm?

The Lahore Journal #2: Learning to trust: the back story

My great aunt was rescued during the violence of the Partition by my grandfather. 

She was studying to be a doctor. Her aspirations and dreams were to help others. To repair, help and heal. 

She was displaced again when living in Uganda during Idi Amin’s expulsion of Indians. She moved to the UK this time helped by a church in Sevenoaks. During her time in the UK she become a teacher right up to the time of her stroke in 80s.

She never went back to the medical degree.

I recall once sat on the sofa with my Papa watching India play Pakistan at Cricket. He used to come back on his lunch breaks. Rarely, we'd watch together, not that I was into cricket then, but we were there together on this one occasion. He was not only glued to it he was very animated. I asked him, whilst he was eating, why do Indians dislike the Pakistanis. He quickly responded it was because they left when they should have stayed together. He continued eating and cheering as the match continued.

This hatred, rivalry and deep mistrust is something that I never wanted. I don’t like nor do I wish to entertain it. But all of sudden it is confronting and defining me just by mere virtue of my ethnicity.

It was there whilst trying to obtain a visa.

It was there when determining whether I should go on a forthcoming trip to Lahore.

It was there when I shared with my family that I am going to Pakistan.

It's there.

The Lahore Journal #1: Learning to trust: Preamble

What’s so special about trust anyway.

Honestly, I was fairly flippant with it as a kid.

Trusted everyone, anyone. I still do. Then later on after a few let downs, I learnt the craft of just giving people the impression that I trusted them. Man, those let downs were painful. But the kid's instinct in me still remained.

So I find myself asking is trust really all it's meant to be. Particularly when other people start to try and control how and who I should trust.

When being told to not trust someone it feels like a conspiracy theory. An episode out of the X-Files or a James Bond movie. It's as if there’s a sense that there's yet-to-be-determined body of evidence out there waiting to justify, incriminate or demonstrate who not to trust to reveal their infamy.

The problem I have, including being told what to think at the best of times, with this is: it bugs me.

It bugs me that we learn to be suspicious and that eventually our experience teaches us to adopt a protect yourself mindset. Protect your body. Protect your mind. Protect and by all means temper your hope. Dp not get too vulnerable.

It bugs me that we have to admit that this mindset is right and correct. It will protect us. keep you safe from being let down or whispering "I told you so".

It bugs me that in the same breath we yearn for breakthroughs of peace and pathways pioneered by others who are risking harm and their lives to show that we don’t have to be suspicious.

... and that's the real conflict: bad people, bad realties, exploitation, manipulation (AKA the real world) vs the hope that we have each other’s backs... and that we would help each other at the crucial moment (AKA the world we'd love to live in).

I hate it because its the norm I don’t want.

So when my own father warns me to temper my trust. It bugs me.

His intentions are nothing but sound. His love is nothing but real for his littlest son. I would most likely be the same. My wife often tells me that I’m very trusting and says it’s ‘a lovely thing’. She says it in such a way that makes me feel like I'm a bit innocent of reality. Just like my father is when he tells me not to trust people.

I’m heading to Pakistan. It’s the neighbour of India (my ethnic motherland). India and Pakistan hate each other. Or so I’m told.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Thank you

We just checked our account and it would appear that we have some angels out there who are helping us get through this month. The timing couldn’t have been more appropriate...

... It’s not easy being volunteers. Thank you

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

No hands are too small

Usually during the holidays we treat ourselves to a McDonalds breakfast.

It’s our little family tradition.

A combination of pancakes, sausage McMuffins and hash browns with copious amounts of unhealthy fat and sugar. My fav is the McDonald’s coffee. It’s amongst my favs. Far better, in my opinion, than Starbucks or Caffè Nero. Love it and love it when we all sit around the table, say grace together and then dive in. Breakfast usually has that silence when everyone is chewing away and there are no words but just the joy of eating. No “can you eat up your vegetables”, negotiating how many mouthfuls left, or procrastinating through toilet visits, refilling waters and so on. You get the picture. It’s a guilty pleasure. We know that there are better alternatives. But it’s our little tradition.

This holidays we were avoiding mentioning this little tradition as we have no money.

These last few weeks have been very testing. Car servicing and a decision to go for a holiday (with hardly any money) rather than wait for something to turn up.

This morning Caleb meandered in and cuddled up in bed and then reminded us that we haven’t done our usual thing. There it was. The mention of something that we were hoping to avoid. Eek.

We had to turn and explain that this time we may need to forgo our usual pleasures. That we are struggling right now. We just cannot do it. We don’t have enough. He nodded. Said nothing and we... we counted our blessings that there were no complaints or battles. He then leaves the room.

It’s tough knowing that we can’t always provide for our family especially the little things that are seemingly meaningless and even a luxury but have helped us build up our memories as a family. It’s not a big thing. We can do without it and we are no way the poorer for missing out on this silly and indeed, unhealthy, tradition.

Moments later he comes back and says I would like to pay for us to have our family tradition and treat. He had £25 in his hand.

Angie turned to me with tears in her eyes that quietly acknowledge that in one gesture of a 12 year old boy reminds us that no hands are too small to help and provide for one another. And that silly family traditions are important too. They help build us up ready for tomorrow’s challenges. Together.

Thank you son.

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Saturday, 14 April 2018

Kosovo2018: #9 In the cafe after church (Photos by Joshie)

After church we all head down to the cafe for a customary coffee and catch up.

I recall last time this was great fun. I caught up with friends and Joshie managed to take a few photos.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 13 April 2018

Kosovo2018: #8: Football

Last time I was here I played football (and was told to people that I was Roberto Carlos)

This time we went to see the local footy club play.

It was a hot day and man was it good's. Down to 10 men. Penalty going against us and a great goal to win the game. I managed to capture the goal from the stalls (but you can't see it... though check out the response from the crowd- you can see Joshie enjoyed it!)

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Kosovo2018: #7 Through the roof

We were asked to visit an old lady.

I couldn’t work out whether she was a widow but she lives alone and she has hole in her roof. She attends the local church which Ray goes to whilst here.

The weather is better the day we visit. It was only raining slightly. Three weeks ago there was snow and I was told only a few weeks ago there was torrential rain.

We are here to take the first look at the problem. It took us a while to find. We had to ask the neighbour to phone the lady as she couldn’t hear us knocking at the gate. The house is on three floors. There’s a basement which is incomplete. The top floor is also incomplete.

There are stairs that go up but it has been covered to seal up. We go up and through to check out. It’s an incomplete house. She lives on one floor. Easier to manage. She really wants to offer us some food and drink and gets us a juice. Joshie is very happy.

After inspecting the roof area it looks like it needs new tiles and some doors and windows. Luan picks up the phone to ask his friend to come and look at the roof to give an idea of cost for a job like this.

We leave but resolve to buying some essentials and coming back to drop off. She’s not there when we come back. Joshie drops the eggs off where we left our drinks.

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Saturday, 7 April 2018

Kosovo2018 #6: Family fun

Caleb & I visited Avni (a wood cutter) and his family a couple of years ago. Caleb played football with Hasret and Avni showed me lots of photos. The girls were immense fun and they were sharing how Altonne (middle) was recovering from a deliberate hit and run- they joked she was half metal.

If I had one word to describe this family it would be blessed. There’s an immense amount of fun and appreciation in this household.

Hasret was playing his drums and they were singing songs. He even shared some of his drawing that he’s been doing. He said he’d love to learn to play the guitar someday.

There are hardships and then there’s some. I feel taught afresh being here about some of life’s simple blessings: one another.

Altonne shared: only this morning I remembered Caleb and you and I prayed for you and thanked God for you.

The gratitude is mutual as are the prayers for this family.

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Location:Rruga Nikollë Kaçorri,,

Kosovo2018: #5 Joshie of Gjakova

Here’s the explorer in his new habitat.

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Location:Rruga Nikollë Kaçorri,,

Kosovo2018: #4 Coffee

I recall hearing that Coffee is the world’s number one drink. More popular that water.

One thing I love in any country is ‘going out for coffee’. And this place is no exception.

Such a great tradition.

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Location:Rruga Nikollë Kaçorri,,

Kosovo2018: #3 Redux

Just been re-reading a few entries from the last time I was here with Caleb.

The house we are now staying in is now complete.

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Location:Rruga Nikollë Kaçorri,,

Kosovo2018 #2: Slept in an airport

Flights are expensive.

We can do anything to make them cheaper. Including an overnight stay in Vienna.

Joshie was up for it. So was I. I’ve done it a few times before. Even my friend Ray who I gave a lift to the airport only last week did it. He is in his 60s and ‘in between’ chemo sessions. Ray has arranged most of our trip and we’re meeting him on the other side.

The adventure begins.

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Friday, 6 April 2018

Kosovo2018 #1 Joshie n Papa

Around 14 years ago I nearly left the charity sector. I was disillusioned with it. Too much money and power in the wrong hands. Saw too much of what I’d rather not in an ‘industry of help’.

I wanted out.

Teaching was my panacea. Applied. Interviewed. The university however failed to let me know that I got in. An administrative error. One that cost me my teaching career that I never had but also one which reopened the door for charity. Except this time without money. The question put to me was do you want to do this. Money aside. What do you want to do?

This is tough question- as I really didn’t know. Teaching held prospect, a safe career, respect and security. Oh and money. The other had none of these.

I asked just about everyone what I should do hoping that I could outsource this issue. I received lots of advise around pros and cons and supportive sentiments. It was only when I asked a professor (and good friend’s father) who said this exact question: what do you want to do?

I didn’t have an immediate answer as I was till trying to scramble around the what should I do the of response.

I went home.Told Angie exactly what happened and she asked me the same question: what do you want to do?

The answer was instinctive. I want to do the charity thing. I just don’t know how we will survive. She said “let’s pray now”. We did. We went to sleep. The next morning she woke up and said “let’s do this together”.

We have done this now for nearly 15 years. A few years ago I said we must start bringing our children when the time is right. That time happened for Caleb two years ago and now it’s Joshie’s turn.

Today we stepped out the door and were heading to Kosovo to see friends and start to see more of the world, but to share in what we are doing together as a family.

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Location:Rruga Nikollë Kaçorri,,

Thursday, 15 March 2018

End Poverty 2030 (can you spot the Solankys in this vid?)

See if you can spot three Solankys in this video!

A few weeks ago we took Caleb, Joshie, Reuben (and Ezra) to help make this film for a project that I'm working on called End Poverty 2030 and call to gather Christians behind the 17 Sustainable Development Goals over the next 12 years.

It was great fun to see them in front of the camera.